Daily Current Affairs – 5th January, 2017DEVENDRA VISHWAKARMA
India Bangladesh Relationship
India was the first country to recognize Bangladesh as a separate and independent
state and established diplomatic relations with the country immediately after its
independence in December 1971. India had played a very huge role in Bangladesh’s freedom struggle. India’s links with Bangladesh are civilisational, cultural,
social and economic. There is so much that unites the two countries such as a shared history, common heritage, linguistic and cultural ties, passion for music, literature and the arts. India and Bangladesh’s geographical locations complement each other and present an opportunity for both to further develop their connectivity links and economies.
India and Bangladesh have a lot to gain from each other considering the location of both the nations. India is one of the two neighbours having border with Bangladesh and is a major power in South Asia which can support Bangladesh militarily and economically. India also played a very important role in the freedom struggle of Bangladesh when it had its own set of challenges in terms of economy and refugees.
Bangladesh, on the other hand is one of the six neighbours having borders with India. Its location is highly critical because it is almost enveloped within India. The two nations are intricately linked in terms of geography. In spite of these factors, both the nations have failed to seize the opportunity and develop extremely cordial and strong bilateral relations. One major reason for the same is the ‘business as usual’ approach by India.
Major Challenges – Transit and Access
The resolution of transit related issue has seen very slow progress due to lack of effective strategy and investments. India has been seeking access and comprehensive multi modal transit policy for long but both the nations have only managed piecemeal deals with no global vision. In both the nations, different ministries are involved for different systems of transport. This has led to involvement of too many ministries, thus leading to bureaucratic delays and divergence of approach of different ministries.
What was needed in this case was a masterplan, with one vision and clear goals of improving trade, commerce and connectivity in all sub-regional, regional, trans-Asian and trans-continental aspects.
Water Sharing Disputes
Water sharing has also been a long and unending dispute between both the nations. It has proved to be a major challenge because of the following reasons:
- In this case too, there has been no change in approach over the years.
- The problems between the central government and the West Bengal state government.
- Absence of a comprehensive strategy which will deal with all the rivers together and provide for a common policy rather than individual management of rivers.
- The Farakka barrage dispute has been a major reason for giving rise to the anti-Indianism prevailing. The barrage is said to have a devastating impact on the ecosystem of northwest Bangladesh, destroying land, increasing salinity in river and underground water.
- Rampal Power plant being set up near the Sunderbans has raised concerns regarding environment degradation and unfortunately all voices raised against this have not been given due respect.
- A few undesirable non tariff barriers continue to exist and prove to be a hindrance in the trade between both the nations.
Bright Spots in the Relationship
There have been positive developments as well which are as follows:
- The biggest step forward required from Bangladesh was responding to India’s security concern and removing all terrorist camps within its borders.
- India has allowed duty-free access to Bangladeshi goods.
- India is also selling to Bangladesh which has had a major impact. This is one area where a lot more needs to be done and the performance is below potential.
- The signing of the 30-year Ganges Water Treaty in 1996 has led to mitigation of some of the negative impact arising due to Farakka Barrage dispute.
As mentioned, the relationship has a huge potential if the energies are channelized in the right direction. A few things that need to be given special attention are:
- Substantial progress in our bilateral relations can be achieved with proper policy and planning.
- The media, especially in India, needs to bring critical matters into limelight and give them due attention. A lot of issues do not receive the adequate attention because of indifference on the part of the media.
- Failure to negotiate over the Teesta river dispute has been a major shortcoming on the part of both the nations.
Connecting the dots
- Describe the major challenges that need to be addressed to improve the relationship between India and Bangladesh. Suggest what steps can the two nations can take to address the challenges?
Challenges in front of the Indian Army
The turbulence caused by selection of General Bipin Rawat as the new Army Chief, superseding two army commanders senior to him, has seemingly calmed down within the first week of the changeover. However, the challenges he inherited as the Army Chief need a refreshed lookout and speedy resolutions.
Modernisation of Army
- The modernisation of army has been lagging for many years
- The army had identified 24 modernisation projects of which 11 of them were deemed as critical. However, even the ‘critical’ projects also did not see much of progress, thereby revealing the current fragile condition of the Indian Army.
- Infantry modernisation has been a pothole despite initiation of procurement of artillery guns, air defence assets and helicopters. Today, the infantry solider lacks even a modern basic assault rifle.
- The procurement of improved bullet proof jackets and ballistic helmets for the soldiers has been talked about since long, but neither has seen light of day.
- General Rawat is from the infantry and hence the lack of modern equipment for the foot-soldier ought to be his greatest concern.
- Thus, continuous modernization of the force by gradual induction of latest equipment for giving a futuristic outlook to the forces is the need of the day.
- General Rawat’s supersession of two officers belonging to armoured corps and the mechanised infantry is proof of the fact that in current environment, infantry is perceived to be dominating the army
- However, a bias towards infantry from the new Army Chief may further open long-existing fissures within the organisation.
- The implementation of AVS Committee report which provides for faster promotions for Army officers up to the rank of Colonel in order to reduce their age profile at the combat level and ensure that they get promotions commensurate to their jobs which was subsequently supported by Supreme Court decision have already caused a lot of heartburn in the army.
- Such evolving dynamics is not good for an organisation like army which is considered strong when all its branches are well coordinated and cooperated, even in peace time.
- In such a scenario, General Rawat has to not only act fairly, but also to be seen to act fairly to restore the cohesiveness of the army.
The seniority rigidity
- The two superseded officers, Lt General Praveen Bakshi and Lt General PM Hariz, have decided to continue as army commanders. This might however create some functional problems as seniority matters a lot in a rigidly hierarchical organisation like the army.
- However, it is expected to be handled and dealt with deftly as both the officers shall be retiring in November.
Seventh pay commission
- General Rawat will have to take up with the government the need for urgent action to meet the aspirations of the soldiers from the Seventh Pay Commission.
- The four core issues – questions of status equivalence, hardship and risk allowances, the military service pay and non-functional upgradation – need to be resolved urgently.
- These issues have a direct impact on the morale and effectiveness of soldiers in operations while having the potential to damage the delicate balance of civil-military relations.
Lack of infrastructure
- Though the army chief has highlighted that the Indian army is tasked to fight a two-front war, that is China and Pakistan, there is lot be done to make India stronger- militarily as well as infrastructure wise.
- A Mountain Strike Corps for the China border was raised during UPA II government but the state of its equipping and infrastructure has been lagging way behind planned targets.
- Even the slow pace of construction of roads by the Border Roads Organisation and the delay in commencement of laying of strategic railway lines makes it extremely difficult for the army to deploy troops within the required time-frame should the need arise.
Internal security- J&K
- The situation in J&K has deteriorated dramatically in Jammu and Kashmir, with terrorists targeting army camps at Uri and Nagrota last year.
- There was a huge spike in cross border infiltration with 112 terrorists coming in 2016 as compared to 30 in 2015.
- In the same way, the army lost 63 soldiers in the state, more than double the previous year’s figures.
- Thus, one of the main actions to be undertaken by the Army Chief is to assure the calm environment in the valley.
Procurement of weapon systems and equipment is an important function for managing the operational health, morale and capability of the armed forces. The procurement process is undoubtedly full of challenges but these are not insurmountable. The Army being the largest service and fielding the largest array of equipment needs to improve its own processes by carrying out an internal analysis and taking effective steps to speed up the procurement process. Accepting the shortcomings in its processes and taking steps to overcome them, particularly where internal measures can improve the processes, is the most important step towards capacity building. The government should also take care of the basic needs of the soldiers who risk their lives for the country at borders and no politics should be played over soldiers’ lives. With regards to the supersession, it has not happened for the first time and with time, the issue shall also be subsided. Overall, the army has to brace itself for many challenges and thus it should be well prepared and well-supplied with all the necessities.
Connecting the dots:
- The Army Chief faces daunting tasks ahead of him in maintaining the health of army. Critically evaluate.